Tuesday, May 28

Old Bridge – Bush Theatre

Old Bridge by Igor Mimic is a powerful drama about the effects of civil conflict on the  lives of ordinary people.  Set in the town of Mostar in the former Yugoslavia, it tells the experience of four young people enjoying life in the way all young adults do when the brutal effects of the civil war which broke up that country changed their lives in ways they could never have imagined or wanted.

It is told through the eyes of Emina, now in her later years, who was one of a group  of four youngsters who lived through these epic events  and is in effect a dramatised narrative with her account of events delivered directly to the audience , while the other four actors dramatised scenes interwoven with her storyline.

The set design by Oli Townsend was empty of scenery or other stage furniture but had a large number of platforms of different levels around which the actors moved as they acted out the various key events. The director Selma Dimitrijvic used the space imaginatively keeping most of the cast on stage either in the background or watching events even when they were not directly involved.  She managed to make what could have been very bitty play smooth and effective.

The acting by the five young actors was impressive. The narrator, Emina, is described in the play script, Susan Lawson-Reynolds, who played the part is clearly younger than that and it might be a little more effective had she seemed older, but her delivery of the long monologues was excellent. The four actors who played the group of young friends were extremely believable although I missed a few of their lines, particularly when they had their backs to the audience as tends to happen when the audience is tiered on three sides of the acting space.

The auditorium was filled from the beginning with a light fog which was perhaps more suitable to the later parts of the play when the battle for Mostar was raging.  The proximity of the  war were well conjured with sound and lighting effects.

The writer Igor Memic was originally from Mostar, who came to the UK after leaving Yugoslavia in 1992 and therefore, presumably, has direct experience of the events that he was dramatising. It is his professional debut as a dramatist and is a very impressive start to his career.  The play does not much dwell on the political origins of the conflict but is focused on its humanitarian impact. It is told highly effectively without gore or unnecessary stage effects.

This is a strong theatrical presentation of a difficult and overlooked subject and is well worth consideration by anyone interested in serious theatre.

Playing until 20th November 2021, https://www.bushtheatre.co.uk/event/old-bridge/

Reviewer: Paul Ackroyd

Reviewed: 27th October 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★